The Heart to Let Go


It's seems like just yesterday those little notes signed, “(heart), your only daughter,” would pop up around the house for no special reason. I often wondered if she was trying to tell me something. Maybe I was giving more attention to her older brothers than to her, maybe she was feeling insecure about our relationship, or maybe she was just being the loving little girl that blessed my life everyday. Bottom line is this: I took her love for granted.

As the teen years rolled around, I looked upon my budding blossom, with her modest attire, her quiet reserve, her many academic achievements, and her compliant behavior; and I could not imagine that she and I would ever be “at odds with each other.” She talked to me about everything, and she looked up to me. I went to every soccer game, track meet or special event. She and I teamed up to decorate for family birthdays, give each other pedicures, laugh and cry while watching movies with one another. We baked goodies in the kitchen, as I tried to instill in her how important it was to serve others and extend hospitality. We went shopping for clothes, and we always seemed to see eye to eye about everything. She was a “good girl” and I was a proud mama. She told me that “many of her schoolmates were either promiscuous, pregnant, drinking heavily, or worse,” adding, “You don't know how bad other parents have it, Mom.” I just assumed that she would never fall into any of those traps, because I was “always there;” the devoted “stay-at-home Mom,” with great kids and the badge to show for it.

Then one day, it all began to fall apart, right before my eyes.

I was shocked to find that our car was missing one morning, when her father got up for work. We checked our daughter's room, only to find her missing as well. Frantic, we began making phone calls; to her cell phone, her friend's homes, etc. No response. Then finally she answered, and confessed that she was “on the freeway, coming back from a party.” She had defied our rules, sneaked out of the house, took the car, and we were flabbergasted! As she entered the house that morning, the tears began to flow. She explained that she “was tired of being the good girl.” All of her friends were at that party, and she was never allowed to go, so she just decided to rebel. I remember looking at her with my mouth open, speechless for a moment. We had never had to discipline our youngest child, really. She never needed more than “a look” from either of us, to teach her right from wrong. For the first time in her young life, she was grounded.

The little “heart” notes began to dwindle from sight. The times we spent in the kitchen became few and far between. Her clothing choices became more revealing and our “talks” turned into “20 questions,” as the gap between me and my daughter grew wider and wider.

It was Christmas Eve, and I was busy preparing the meal, and appetizers, when I urged the kids to help out. Although our two sons were included, I always expected more out of my daughter. After all, she WAS a female!

In the midst of my complaining to her, she burst out with an emotional, “Mom, I am NOT like you … I don't like domestic duties … I am going to be a “career woman” with a maid and a cook! I don't have the same interests as you! I'm not just going to stay at home; I am going to be more than that!” Well, the lump in my throat was obvious as I responded back, in self-defense, reminding her of the jobs I held outside the home during her childhood, working graveyard shift, so that I could be home when she and her brothers needed me. Through uncontrolled tears, I pointed out the sacrifices I’d made, and the reasons for doing so; to ensure that she would have all the necessary teaching and training I could give. How dare she make me feel like my life “was a waste” and not worth emulating. I was hurt, deeply hurt.

In the days and months that followed, it was made clear to me that my counsel was “old fashioned” and my morals were “outdated,” as was my taste in clothes. My daughter no longer wanted me to shop with her, talk with her, or anything. I was losing her.

My closest friends tried to console me and remind me that “this too will pass.” They confirmed that we had raised our kids in the way they should go, and God's promise to us was that “when they were older they would not depart …” But my heart was heavy, as I worried about her going too far, possibly hurting herself.

When my husband and I were planning on moving to a new city, my daughter, who was now in college, informed us that she would not be going with us, but would be moving out on her own … with a friend. It was hard enough when my two sons ventured out into the world, but it was devastating for me to think about our little girl, our baby, doing the same. I wasn't ready for her to go; I wasn't ready for the “empty nest;” There was so much more to teach her, to give her, to prepare her, I thought. I cried to her father, “Why doesn't she need us anymore?” “How are we going to protect her?”

The day we packed up her belongings and set her up in her own apartment was a painful phase for me. I must have called her cell phone five times in the first fifteen minutes after heading for home. She never answered. I sat in the middle of her empty room, once filled with pink frills, trophies, and collector dolls, and cried my eyes out.

It wasn't long before her father and I learned that her “roommate” was her boyfriend. Although she had lied to us (to avoid the parental confrontation), the truth had finally come out when she called for help with her car. My husband was just as upset as I was. The blow of his daughter's “new roommate” was evident as he shared with me how he felt robbed of that precious experience of watching her go out on a date, with the boy coming to our home, seeking her father's approval. Sure he had “met the boy” but he definitely wasn't ready for this!

Again and again, my family and friends would reassure us that our daughter was just trying to “find herself,” “to be her own person,” and “stretch her wings.” I, for one, would often wonder “what did I do wrong?” And I would pray for her safety, her life, and her heart.

Then one day she announced that she was going to become an egg donor. At 20 years of age, how could she make a decision such as this? I thought. I tried to discourage her, but she was adamant about it. I made my opinion known, as I had about her living arrangements, but it seemed to matter little to her. She went ahead with the process. Not once, not twice, but three times in one year!

The pivotal place for me was when she asked me to come along with her, to be there during each procedure. I knew I could have stood my ground, insisting on having NO part in this decision, with hopes that she would see things my way, and wait till she had her own children first. But I didn't. The bottom line, I decided, was that she was my daughter, and I would love and support her no matter what she did in life, or who she lived with, or how different she was from me. I began to let go.

Over a year and a half has passed since that Christmas Eve when I lost connection with my youngest child; my baby girl. During that time, I observed how she called and chatted with her father about many things; career choices, vehicle maintenance, job ethics, investments, and education. He never brought up the life choices that she knew we disagreed with, but just continued to keep the door open for her. Often, the call ended without so much as a “let me talk to Mom” comment. I was hurt, but I understood, since most of our conversations always led back to “what she was doing wrong.” I realized that my reminding her of what I thought she should be doing was only pushing her away.

I guess you could say it was a turning point for me. Having felt like a failure as a parent, as a role model, as a Christian woman, a heavy cloud had formed over my head. It affected every aspect of my life. I even stopped writing, assuming that there was nothing to write about since there was “no happy ending.” There were, also, other family crises that contributed to my ongoing depression, as well. I knew that God was in control, and not me, but I was angry at Him for allowing things to go the way they did.

Sometimes, we just have to learn the hard way, don't we?

Now, my parental plight could have been worse, and pales in comparison to others, but the concept is still the same. Accepting the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference is the key. My daughter's situation remains the same; however, the phone rings now, almost every day, with her need to “just talk,” or a “quick question,” or a “how ya doing?” She may call me for a family recipe, advice about personal issues, or with a plan for the two of us to go to a play or shopping or an amusement park together, just us girls. I smile inside. It spreads to my face as I listen to her, and see her with new eyes.

We are enjoying womanhood together, and although I am still her Mom, she considers me “her best friend” as well. Our relationship has flourished and she knows I want only the best for her. I thought I had lost her, but when I learned to let go, I found her heart again. When I gave up trying to control her life, I found my own peace. It's not the completed “happy ending” I was hoping for, but I trust God to take care of the rest. The empty nest is a tough transition, no doubt, but there really is life after it happens. I may not always agree with what our kids do, but I agree with who they are. Doesn't God feel the same way about all of us?

Recently, a card came in the mail from my baby girl, thanking me “for always being there for her.” She added, “You raised me into a woman, a reflection of you. I cherish the times when people say, ‘you're so much like your Mom,’ yet I know I still have much to learn from you … Thank you for being so patient … I love you.”

And it was signed, (heart), your only daughter.

Ginger Boda – Rhymerbabe@aol.com

© 2005

Ginger is an award winning author, having contributed to various online publications. Her work is also featured in Chicken Soup For the Bride's Soul, and the Christmas edition of the God's Way series. Weaving faith, tradition and humor into her stories and poetry, she writes from the heart. Ginger lives in Southern California with her husband, Mark, of 28 years. They have three grown children, who have left the nest, but visit often ... to their parent's delight! Ginger also loves to read, garden, karaoke, and strives to make a memory every day.

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